Clothes and appearances never equal consent

As a society, we need to stop focusing on the clothes of the victim in any situation and instead deal with the person who assaulted them.


by Ella Norton, Page Designer

It’s a cooler August day right before school starts. I had just gotten back from a long trip and had seen my best friend in what felt like forever. We typically walked to and from each other’s houses as we didn’t live too far and neither of us had a license.

A young man came up to me and said he was lost and didn’t have enough money. He looked young and could have easily been a teenager. He asked me for my age and I told him I was fifteen, and he told me that was his age too. I didn’t have any money but I showed him in the direction of where he might be able to find someone to help.

He then asked if he could have my number because he wanted someone he could be “friends” with. I began to feel a bit uncomfortable and I began to try and get myself out of this situation. I showed him the directions again and walked away.

At this point I was feeling uneasy and began to walk a bit faster and once out of eyesight, ran the rest of the way home. A couple of minutes later I saw the same guy walk up my street, which is the opposite direction of the way I had pointed him. Whether or not he was intentionally following me home, I don’t know.

Later, my mom and I found out that he went up to multiple people in our neighborhood telling the same story. He was not fifteen, but twenty-one and in a couple of instances, verged on forcing his way into homes. He was eventually arrested by the police but was released a little while later.

When I began to tell family and friends what had happened, several made comments that had to do with my looks such as, “It’s because you’re so pretty,” or “Well when you’re dressed so nicely, who could blame them?” Although I’m sure they meant well, these comments left me feeling very uneasy and as if I was somehow to blame for this situation. My looks aside, why on earth should appearances matter? Clothes and appearances should never be the excuse behind inexcusable behavior.

Clothes never equal consent. Girls, and frankly anyone, should be allowed to wear whatever they want without fear that some man might see this as an open invitation to their bodies or to come up and talk to them. Sadly, I hear way too often sayings like, “she’s going to get into trouble dressed like that.” But why should a woman’s looks ever impact anything?

The truth is, I was lucky. Although I was a little shaken, this man wasn’t aggressive or violent towards me and I wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted. Although it seems like he did intentionally follow me home, he definitely did not show any sexual harassment behaviors. Sadly this is not the truth for women around the world. Comments like the ones before become problematic when they are used to excuse terrible situations based on outwards appearances.

This becomes especially important in situations of sexual assault.  Many people try to make the argument that because of a woman’s, or man’s, clothes, they were “asking for it.” But when has clothing ever equaled consent?

If I am walking around and you see a five-dollar bill in my pocket, does that mean you can take it? Of course not, that would be stealing. So why should it be any different with people’s bodies?

Girls could be wearing revealing clothing that people would say “were asking for it,” for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s for themselves to feel confident, maybe it’s for a partner or maybe it’s because they do want to meet someone tonight, but that doesn’t mean that anyone gets the right to go near them without their consent.

As a society, we should be focused so much more on educating people on sexual assault and create a community where it’s not accepted  rather than perpetuating rape culture. Rape culture is defined as “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” Rape culture is extremely problematic in many ways, one being making the victims feel like it was their fault that something happened. This culture is only perpetuated by comments such as “she was asking for it.”

We should not focus on the clothes a person was wearing about rather focus on the attacker in the crime. That should be the priority, never a person’s appearances. There are other things that can go into this category such as if the person was drinking or if they were flirting with each other. If a person says no, that means they don’t consent and everything else doesn’t matter.

The issue in cases of sexual assault should be that a person violated the body of another person not what type of clothes that person was wearing. People put clothes on their body that they feel comfortable in, and they should never have to be worried about being uncomfortable because somebody gets the wrong idea.